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Diesel Trucks Could Be Banned From Washington D.C.

A new bill has been proposed by the Washington D.C. City Council that would effectively ban commercial trucks from driving in the city. This ban would result from part of Mayor Vincent Gray’s Sustainable DC Plan which hopes to turn D.C. into the “healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the nation over the next 20 years.”

While there isn’t anywhere in the bill that specifically states that trucks may not be driven in the city, that is the possibly unintended result of certain parts of the plan. If enacted, Sustainable D.C. Omnibus Act of 2013 will ban the registration of any new diesel-powered vehicle starting in 2017. The goal is presumably to force trucks in the D.C. area to switch to natural gas or other greener alternatives, thereby improving the air quality in D.C.

According to several state and national groups – including the ATA, the Maryland Motor Truck Association, and the Virginia Trucking Association – who are opposed to the new legislation, the actual result from such a bill would be very different from the intended objective.

A letter to the D.C. Council Chairman from the groups stated that the bill would end up having an overwhelmingly negative effect on the D.C. area. Since the bill would not prohibit older diesel trucks from driving in D.C., the result would be that older, less efficient trucks would be used by local companies for much longer than they otherwise would have. In addition, any carrier who had an updated fleet wouldn’t be able to deliver goods to D.C., ensuring that only the fleets with the oldest (and presumably dirtiest and least safe) trucks would be able to drive in D.C.

“Although many motor carriers are considering whether natural gas or other alternative fuels are suitable for their operations, it will be many years – far longer than 2018 – before a significant portion of the commercial vehicle population of this country will be other than diesel vehicles,” said the letter.

The bill could even increase congestion on the roads of the city that is already plagued with heavy traffic. According to Bob Pitcher, the VP of State Laws for the ATA, the bill may also result in shippers “[choosing] to receive smaller, more frequent deliveries in smaller gasoline-powered vehicles – many, many gasoline-powered vehicles to add to one of the nation’s already most congested cities.”

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